“Do not dig your grave with your own knife and fork”


Counting calories has become more of a trend than I would have ever thought it would.

While some years ago only very few people seemed to actually track what they are eating – either because they wanted to reach a certain fitness goal or because they simply aimed for a specifically lean look  -, I am evermore shocked by how normal it has become to weigh out and count everything you put into your mouth – and woe betide you if you eat 100 calories too much!

But doesn’t this actually do more damage to our nowadays often already damaged relationship with food? Or does it, as advocators claim on the other hand, even help to improve that very relationship?

I admittedly have been counting calories myself for more than a year so trust me when I say that I know exactly what I am talking about. What gave rise to that was my ever-present insecurity about myself and my discontent about my body image, the permanent wish to finally see progress, defined muscles, less fat. Well, I cannot complain – it worked. I became leaner than ever before, got my binge eating under control and finally saw that annoying fat melting – but at what cost?

I spent hours thinking about what to eat and even more hours typing it into my phone, letting it do the calculation. I did get my binge eating under control, yes, but I often simply didn’t feel completely satisfied, had to force myself not to snack on that extra handful of nuts that I was craving and not to eat a little more in the evening when I still felt like it.

I soon realized that what I was doing could not be a long-term solution for my problems, especially when I started finding more and more reasons to increase my caloric intake (“I just hovered my room, I’m pretty sure this burned enough calories to eat this and that”, “I definitely did more steps than my phone says I did – I can allow myself that extra spoon of peanut butter today”) so I decided to go back to intuitive eating.

The problem? For some reason I could not stop tracking anymore. I was scared. Scared to lose control over the amount of calories I was eating and therefore the control over my body image. Scared to gain back some of the fat I had lost in the process of tracking and I was scared to fall back into that terrible, longstanding unhappiness.

Luckily, I started getting more into this whole topic of nutrition during that time and the more I learned about how nutrition works and the more I also set my wits to veganism, the more I cared about the quality of calories instead of the quantity and the more I cared about my health instead of my body image.

And at some point I finally found the strength to delete all tracking apps from my phone and free myself from any numbers that I let myself be limited by. Yes, that freedom did feel a little strange in the beginning and I felt quite insecure from time to time, but I have never regretted taking that step!

Was tracking my calories all bad though? I would not say that either because it indeed made a big contribution to me understanding nutrition and getting a feeling for what I actually eat, the realisation that this could also be done in a healthier way simply came too late for me. Another problem is that many tracking apps suggest a caloric intake that is way below what you actually need, just to make sure that you really see some weight loss and write a positive review in exchange. In order to find out how much you would have to eat to gain or lose weight, you can simply track what you are currently eating and increase or decrease it by about 200 calories. But I want to stress this again: Your physical and mental health is a lot more important than your measurements, take care of those first!

Concluding all of this, I would say that if you have a specific fitness goal (weight loss -> caloric deficit; weight gain -> caloric surplus), it might make sense to have an eye on your caloric intake and you might want to consider tracking them for some time. However, counting your calories should never be a long-term thing! Whenever you feel the slightest signs of an unhealthy relationship with food, an upcoming obsession with the control you get by tracking or when you start feeling uncomfortable by the thought of deleting your tracking app, do exactly that. Immediately.

We have to understand once and for all that food is never our enemy, but always our friend.

xx Jeannine